When Sylva was eight years-old, she and her family were tom from their comfortable bourgeois existence in Nazi-invaded,...

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A SPARROW IN THE SNOW

When Sylva was eight years-old, she and her family were tom from their comfortable bourgeois existence in Nazi-invaded, just-Sovietized Riga and sent to Siberia for crimes that were no more explicit than having the wrong social origins. Shortly afterwards her father was led away to one of Stalin's labor camps, and the family's life in the wilderness and provincial towns -- even with occasional help from relatives -- became even more a matter of mere survival. At thirteen Sylva, feeling doubly accursed as political suspect and assimilated Jew, decided to take flight like the sparrow in her title, and finagled her way back to European Russia to live with an uncle. She had adapted herself, chameleon-like, to the student ambience of Leningrad when she was arrested and returned to Siberia on a legal technicality, where her story ends. Almost as frightening as the Solzhenitsyn-like descriptions of terror, jails and transports is the picture of young straight Russia on the make -- there is politics without conviction, cheating on exams, insidious class distinctions, dishonesty in personal relationships (Sylva doesn't tell her fiance, a rising scientific star, about her background), the search for marriage as security and premarital sex as a girl's ruination. Ms. Darel has since come to England, but this memoir does not touch upon that part of her life; rather the stance throughout is that of the insider trying to stay in until it becomes too much to take. A slight book with a certain documentary value.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 1973

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Stein & Day

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1973